Monday, April 25, 2016


Story & Art: John Byrne | Colors: Glynis Wein | Letters: Jim Novak
Editing: Bob Budiansky | Searching: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Namor and Marrina drop Sue off at the Baxter Building and depart. After calling Avengers Mansion and learning Reed had been there, Sue and the Silver Surfer travel to the mansion as well. The Avengers are out, save the Scarlet Witch, who informs them of Reed’s kidnapping. The Surfer uses the Power Cosmic to divine that Reed has been taken out into deep space.

Sue summons Ben and Johnny and together they head for the Moon to enlist the aid of the Watcher. He guides the Fantastic three to a ragtag alien fleet comprised of the survivors of numerous worlds destroyed by Galactus. These aliens plan to execute Reed, but the Watcher convinces them otherwise. As the aliens begin to deliberate over Reed’s ultimate fate, Empress Lilandra of the Shi’ar Empire arrives and declares that Reed must die.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Namor lays a big wet smooch on Sue before leaving, as a reminder of what she might have had if she had accepted his advances many years ago. A footnote tells us that Sue’s return to New York takes place a few hours following the conclusion of ALPHA FLIGHT #4.

Sue notes that overall, it’s been less than 24 hours since FANTASTIC FOUR #259. She also recalls that Reed never responded to her flare signal during the fight with Tyros.

The Silver Surfer is unable to aid the FF in their search for Reed due to Galactus having confined him to the Earth way back in issue #50.

In further timeline news, Ben states that Sue announced her pregnancy only “a coupla days ago.” That happened in issue 257, within whose pages two days explicitly passed. So Ben’s reference to a couple here is probably a generalization meaning "a few" rather than specifically meaning two days.

As he, Sue, and Johnny head into space, Ben provides a handy recap of the FF’s origins for those who may have joined the series since the last time Byrne covered it, in issue 245.

The Watcher states that his people have allowed him to aid the FF in their search for Reed, as his fate may have much larger repercussions for the universe than anyone realizes.

Johnny compares the vessel on which they find Reed to the ancient colony ship the FF found in the Negative Zone in issue 252.

The aliens intent on executing Reed invoke his sparing of Galactus as the reason for their plot. They also let us know that Galactus killed seven billion Skrulls when he devoured their throneworld. Reed seems conflicted about whether he should be upset over this, outright declaring the Skrulls to be “… the most relentlessly evil race in their galaxy.”

Is It Clobberin' Time? No.

My Thoughts: The little back-and-forth between John Byrne and Chris Claremont continues here. For those keeping track:
  • In X-MEN #146 (June 1981) by Claremont, Arcade struck a match on Doctor Doom’s armor.
  • In FANTASTIC FOUR #244 (July 1982) by Byrne, Reed Richards saved the life of Galactus.
  • In X-MEN #167 (March 1983), Claremont had a furious Lilandra respond to the Galactus situation by beaming a transmission to the FF, declaring that Reed will be held responsible for the next world consumed by Galactus.
  • In FANTASTIC FOUR #258 (September 1983), Byrne declared the Doom from the X-MEN issue was a robot and destroyed it on page to make a point that Doom would never allow such a thing to happen.
(Brian Cronin at Comics Should Be Good! has done much more in-depth articles about both these incidents here and here.)

(Also, it's interesting to note that, presumably due to production time to get the issues into print and lead time to create responses, both "inciting incidents" happened first, before either response. Though Byrne had to wait a full two years to address the Doom thing since Doom was trapped in Liddleville for most of that time.)

And here we are. While the Doom incident was perhaps a little petty on Byrne’s part – even if I agree with his sentiment – the Lilandra thing comes off a bit petty on Claremont’s part, at least for me. Byrne was telling his own story, but for some reason Claremont decided Lilandra had to threaten Reed over this act, and according to Byrne, he did so without consulting the FANTASTIC FOUR editorial office first.

I’m on record as disagreeing with the naïveté exhibited by our heroes in saving Galactus. Surely, weighed against the countless billions upon billions of lives he would take in the future, letting him die was the best alternative. It’s the old “kill Hitler as a baby” conundrum (which, coincidentally, Byrne will also visit, in a way, before this run is over).

But I also believe Byrne has the right to tell his story as he will, without interference from the writer of a completely unrelated series. It would be one thing to have Lilandra simply react. That’s to be expected and even applauded in the furtherance of the shared universe. And I'd be fine with her threatening Reed if it was part of a story Claremont and Byrne cooked up together. But to unilaterally insert her into an FF story as more than just an observer – well, that turns this into something Byrne will have to address whether he wants to or not.

But, on the plus side as we’ll next time, Byrne managed to make lemonade out of this one.


  1. but for some reason Claremont decided Lilandra had to threaten Reed over this act

    I understand the reason specifically was that Dark Phoenix had to die for her crime of destroying a planet, while the good folks at FF saving Galactus the planet-eater was deemed a-okay.

    But, when Galactus ate the Skrull homeworld in #257 (Aug 83), I would presume UXM #167 (Mar 83) was out by when Byrne wrote it and Byrne didn't end up blindly into it but rather actively chose to address the threat by Lilandra (and Claremont). I btw just love Claremont's Lilandra admitting that her threats are empty, firstly for characterization, but it also left an out for Byrne to ignore it should he have wanted to. Obviously, he didn't and it's awesome.

    1. Weirdly, as I'll discuss a bit tomorrow, although Claremont's Lilandra admits her threat is empty, Byrne's Lilandra behaves during this storyline as if she's still the ruler of the Shi'ar!

  2. I was always fine with the fact that Galactus was portrayed as an universal force, rather than just a being who had to go around destroying others in order to live.
    He's not really a force for destruction, he's a force who is acting out some grand cosmic plan that no one else can truly understand.
    He's like a star going nova, only he is sentient. You can't judge a star for being destructive, when it's just part of Nature.

    However, I do understand that Shooter had a different interpretation of Galactus and Dark Phoenix.
    Galactus is always treated as a villain in the comic stories, who should be stopped, if possible, although he can't be killed.
    Dark Phoenix was meant to be redeemed after the end of that story. She was going to be treated as a hero again.
    Perhaps if Claremont had intended to keep Dark Phoenix around as a villain, Shooter wouldn't have had a problem with allowing her to live.
    Although, the callous line by Reed about the Skrulls is wrong. I could see Claremont having a problem with Shooter allowing that line.

    1. It's hard to say whether Shooter would have let them keep Phoenix around as a villain. Byrne has stated that the intention was the psychic lobotomy with occasional flashes of "Dark Phoenix" here and there, culminating in issue 150, where Magneto would have tried to harness Dark Phoenix for himself. Following 150, Jean would've been restored to normal but Dark Phoenix would have continued to exist within her, occasionally bursting free.

      Byrne and Claremont both (I think) state this in the "Dark Phoenix Tapes" from PHOENIX: THE UNTOLD STORY, and Shooter claims he was ignorant of this plan and if he'd known about it, he would not have insisted she be written out of the series. (Though Shooter wanted her imprisoned on an asteroid, tortured for eternity, and it was Byrne and Claremont who then dediced to spare her that fate by killing her.)

      As great a story as "Dark Phoenix Saga" is, I would love to have seen Claremont's and Byrne's original intentions played out somehow, even as a fourteen-issue maxi-series (#1 would be the originally intended 137, followed by 2 - 14 corresponding to their originally conceived 138 - 150).

    2. Hearing about their alternate plans, I'm glad that things went the way they did now.
      Issue #150 was great because it set the stage for the humanizing of Magneto, which is something I loved from Claremont's run.
      It sounds like, without Phoenix dying, Magneto might not have ended up reforming as a villain.
      That would be a huge loss for X-Men.

    3. Don't get me wrong; I love the orignal "Dark Phoenix Saga" and I'm very happy with what we got. I just wouldn't mind seeing the original idea as some kind of "What If" scenario.

  3. Anyway, I smell shenanigans. In UXM #167 Claremont and Smith goes that extra mile to visually and verbally check that Lilandra wears the golden battle armor through a holographic illusion. It's totally needless unless she was supposed to be appearing like that on already-drawn panels on another book.

    Gladiator was on FF #250 (Feb 83), and right after that appears with ill tidings from that issue in UXM #167 (Mar 83) only one month later. Now that's gotta be editorially coordinated. But then the FF disappears to the Negative Zone in #251 for several issues. Maybe, just maybe there was a planned Lilandra appearance that got pulled back the last minute for some reason (and of course couldn't be fitted in afterwards during the NZ journey). As we learn in the next issue that's exactly the timing (night before their leaving) Byrne gives to Lilandra's holographic visit to Baxter Building.

    Like Jim Shooter who reads all the books before publication is really gonna let Claremont throw such a spinner at the FF book unchecked editorially, yeah right.

    Tis a show wrestling feud to sell books.

    1. Such a planned thing would actually have fitted quite well into this era of the book where FF #256 (Jul 83) was sharing events with (also-Byrne) Avengers #233 (Jul 83), and the backdated FF #258 (Sep 83) recreated a page from DR STRANGE #57 (Feb 83) happening around the events of FF #250.

      Someone has had some work to do with timing everything up plausibly, which may have necessitated the two skips of "several months" and "some weeks" in FF #258 you were critiquing at the time. But after that everything has been happening within days.

    2. Though I sincerely doubt it could ever be true, I'd love to imagine the Claremont/Byrne feud as a stunt thought up by Marvel. Imagine if they're still friends and all the years of never working together again (aside from that little JLA arc) have been for show!

    3. I am, of course, joking to an extent, though the question stands how could Claremont and the Gladiator refer to only a month old issue (the act of saving Galactus itself happened several months earlier). Did he have a mole at the FF office mayhap? It all works too beautifully and doesn't miss a beat with the inter-book back and forth for one to subscribe to the notion it wasn't all planned exactly like this.

      The most beautiful part is that Reed's disappearance in FF/AVENGERS books come out of nowhere and the mystery goes unsolved for months until now we find out (or at least can start quessing) that the perfectly peripheral bit with Lilandra on UNCANNY was meaningful as hell. That's Marvel Universe. Had there been an equivalent bit on FF book that would really have ruined the mystery. If they did pull such a scene, it was totally the right call.

      Someone made a point over at the Gentlemen that the behind-the-scenes stuff just before the linewide X-books relaunch were much more interesting that what were happening in the actual comics at the time. Not so here; the creative feud these two had between themselves translated into pretty damn awesome comics.

    4. I'm sure pages were passed around by the editors, if only to brag about what their writers and artists were doing. It's possible Byrne's story reached Louise Simonson and she told Claremont about it.

      Though as I think about it, Byrne has said that one office needed another office's permission to use their characters. Byrne must have sought approval to use Gladiator, so it's also possible Claremont and Simonson asked to be in the loop as to how Byrne was handling the character.


  4. I’ll save any comment on the justification for saving Galactus until next issue, but…

    // a ragtag alien fleet comprised of the survivors of numerous worlds destroyed by Galactus //

    You gotta admit that’s a great idea. I really love it when writers introduce smack-your-head “Of course!” bits like that based on history/continuity, and Byrne was capable of doing so.

    // a handy recap of the FF’s origins //

    He’s does that well too.

    1. I agree; it's amazing no one thought of a coalition of Galactus survivors prior to this!